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Over 60 held in E.Timor over attack on Australian

Written by: Staff
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DILI, Aug 25 (Reuters) Sixty-two people in East Timor have been detained for questioning following an attack on an Australian member of an international peacekeeping force, police said today.

An Australian police officer was attacked by a mob last weekend while patrolling in the capital Dili after fighting between rival gangs of youths, the international police force said in a statement.

''There's no evidence or information that indicates police are being directly targeted, however ... we will not tolerate people attacking police and we will respond strongly,'' Steve Lancaster, the Australian commander of the force, said in the statement.

Lancaster is in charge of 600 police from Portugal, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia.

The statement said that nine arrest warrants had been issued by the prosecutor general and that anyone established to be involved in the attack would be charged with assault.

Calm has largely returned to the country after a wave of violence, arson and looting from April to June killed at least 20 people and prompted the government to invite international forces to restore order. Most of the chaos occurred in and around Dili.

But sporadic violence continues involving gangs who fight one another with stones and homemade weapons.

President Xanana Gusmao said on Tuesday he had suspended emergency measures introduced two months ago following the violence sparked by a split in the country's armed forces.

The roots of the initial violence were complex, with elements of political and regional rivalries flaring after then-prime minister Mari Alkatiri, who stepped down under pressure on June 26, sacked nearly half the country's tiny army.

Alkatiri is suspected of arming civilians during the violence and has been told by the country's attorney general that he cannot leave the country.

Nobel Peace Price laureate Jose-Ramos Horta has since taken over as prime minister.

REUTERS KR HT1745

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